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North Korean Art: Paradoxical Realism

North Korean Art: Paradoxical Realism


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  • Product Description
  • Press Release
  • Introduction

    North Korean Art: Paradoxical Realism at the 2018 Gwangju Biennale is an exhibition that reflects the culmination of an eight-year exploration into the art of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). During that time, BG Muhn made nine research trips to the DPRK to pursue a growing passion for the uniqueness and mystery surrounding Chosonhwa, the North Korean name for traditional ink wash painting on rice paper.

    The DPRK is notably the only country in the world after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 that continues to create Socialist Realism art. This exhibition is likely the first opportunity for people around the world to see North Korean Chosonhwa in such a broad range of images within Socialist Realism art.

    Contents of Table

    A Journey of Investigation 6
    Relying on Primary Source Research 8
    What Has Been Developed Over the Past Six Decades of North Korean Art 10
    Ink Wash on Rice Paper 14
    The Expression of North Korean-ness 16
    The Distinctive Characteristics of Chosonhwa 22
    Socialist Realism Ideological Painting 24
    The Core of Socialist Realism Collaborative Painting 27
    Propagandistic Elements in Collaborative Painting Melodramatic Traits 41
    Kitsch Elements Beloved by North Korean 43
    Landscape Painting with Unexpected Power 44
    Waves in Ink Wash Painting Rice Paper 50
    The Obsession to Capture Reality 53
    The Tradition of Literati Painting in the DPRK 55
    The Auspicious Connotations to the People of the DPRK 62
    Uniformity or Assumption 65
    Art as the Triumph of Transcending Life's Struggle 67
    A Manifestation of Human Spirit & Emotion 69
    Art Can Be Still Victimized by Political Ideology 71
    The list of artworks 7


    About the Author

    Author BG Muhn is a visual artist and a professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Georgetown University. He has achieved substantial and noteworthy professional recognition through solo exhibitions in venues such as Stux Gallery in the Chelsea district of New York City, Ilmin Museum of Art in Seoul and the American University Museum in Washington, DC. Muhn has received several awards for his artistic merits, including the Maryland State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award and Best in Show at the Bethesda Painting Awards competition. His artwork has been collected in museums and galleries that include the National Museum of Modern Art in South Korea. He also has received acclaim in reviews and interviews with The New York Times, Art in America and CNN.

    In addition to actively showing his artworks, Muhn has taken a strong interest in and studied the relatively unknown field of North Korean art. He made numerous research trips to Pyongyang, North Korea over the last six years and visited art museums such as the Choson National Art Museum and creative institutions including Mansudae Art Studio to conduct interviews of artists, art historians and museum staff. He has delivered lectures on North Korean art at academic venues and cultural centers including Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Harvard universities, and the Water Mill Center for Robert Wilson in Long Island, the Korea Society in New York and the Wilson Center in Washington, DC. His research on North Korean art culminated in a book, Pyongyang Art: The Enigmatic World of Chosonhwa, which was published in Korean by Seoul Selection in the spring of 2018. The English version of the publication will be available in the summer of 2019. Muhn has curated two major North Korean art exhibitions, one at the American University Museum in Washington DC in 2016 and the other most recently at the Gwangju Biennale in 2018. North Korean Art: Paradoxical Realism was published in English in conjunction with the Gwangju Biennale.

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